PARIS — The French automaker Renault has agreed to sell its 68 percent stake in Russia’s biggest carmaker to a state-backed entity, in a deal that would give Renault the option of buying back its stake if it chooses to return to Russia. The move, announced Monday, marks a major withdrawal by Renault, the Western carmaker that is most exposed to Russia’s market.
After buying the stake in the giant automaker AvtoVAZ, the state-backed entity, the Moscow-based Central Research and Development Automobile and Engine Institute, known as NAMI, would continue to run its two sprawling auto factories and pay its employees. Renault could then repurchase the stake in its Russian partner within six years, Renault said in announcing the deal.
“Today, we have taken a difficult but necessary decision, and we are making a responsible choice towards our 45,000 employees in Russia,” said the French automaker’s chief executive, Luca de Meo.
Renault did not immediately disclose how much it is receiving for the stake.
Russia’s deal with Renault offers a window into how the Kremlin is trying to create openings for Western companies to return to doing business there whenever the dust settles from President Vladimir V. Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Western firms have come under immense pressure to divest from Russia, and hundreds of them, from McDonald’s to the oil giant Shell, have suspended operations or exited ventures with Russian partners, heaping pressure on the Russian economy.
Russia’s industry and trade minister, Denis Manturov, has previously said that AvtoVAZ, the maker of Lada, Russia’s best-selling car, would likely be handed over to NAMI for caretaking “with the possibility of a buyback, if our colleagues decide to return.”